The Arkansas Razorbacks travel to Knoxville to take on the Tennessee Volunteers tonight at 6:30 PM on the SEC Network. The Hogs trounced the Vols 85-67 in their last meeting in Fayetteville, but Arkansas has struggled mightily on the road this year. Can the Razorbacks get back above .500 on the road in Tennessee?
The Arkansas Razorbacks need to win tonight in a big way. Of the three games left on the schedule, Tennessee is easily the worst of the bunch, and the Hogs are fighting to finish with a winning record at the end of the year. A loss in Knoxville tonight would not bode well for the Alabama and South Carolina games in the next week.
The good news is, Tennessee is actually worse than Arkansas, at least when you look at their record. While the Hogs are sitting at 14-14 (7-8), the Vols are 13-15 (6-9). Arkansas was able to get a blowout win over Tennessee in their last meeting, thanks in large part to a good performance by Moses Kingsley, who had 17 points and 5 boards.
More good news for Arkansas is that the Vols leading scorer, Kevin Punter Jr, who injured his foot against Kentucky. Punter scored 24 points in the previous meeting between these two teams, and is the team’s leading scorer by far, averaging 22 points a game.
The biggest roadblock for the Hogs heading into this game is themselves. There’s no tangible reason why the Razorbacks play so bad on the road, but they do. In fact, the majority of teams in the SEC this season have struggled away from home, more so than usual. But this is par for the course for the Hogs.
If Arkansas wants to win this game, they need to get out of their own heads. That’s the key, in my opinion, to getting over the road woes hump. Last season, the Hogs were blessed with 4 upperclassmen with experience and talent, and they didn’t let their previous road struggles influence them on the court. Arkansas doesn’t have that this year, and it’s shown. In Mississippi, College Station, and pretty much anywhere else that the Hogs have traveled this year.
It’s a mentality issue. These players have got to find a way to shake out the cobwebs of doubt or whatever is causing them to slow up their play on the road, because at this point in the season, Arkansas needs to win at least 1 road game for a shot at being above .500. So if Arkansas was ever going to play well on the road, a Kevin Punter-less 13-15 Tennessee team would be a great time to do it.
Keys to Victory
Don’t get Out-Hustled – If there is one thing that Tennessee can do, it’s run. They will try and get as many breakaway layups and transition points as possible. The Hogs have to not give up long rebounds, play solid half court defense, and take advantage of their bench.
Be Consistent on Offense – Find what works early and stick with it. The Hogs typically struggle to find their outside shooting on the road. Don’t force it! If Kingsley is getting in a groove, then feed Kingsley. Make the defense shift because of your success.
Take Advantage of Our Size Advantage – Arkansas is bigger than Tennessee, both in the paint and outside of it. The Razorbacks actually won the rebound battle in the last game by a margin of 40-33. Taking advantage of our size would be one way to limit Tennessee’s offensive opportunities, and could hopefully lead to some second chance points for the Hogs on offense.
The Arkansas Razorbacks have struggled this year, but a strong finish could help redeem this team, and get fans excited for next year. Mike Anderson has never had a losing record as a head coach, and I highly doubt he wants to break that streak this season. Arkansas needs this win over Tennessee, and all the stars have aligned to give them their best shot at it.